Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thinking about Priorities

The following is from YMAA News, Issue 54, June 15, 2000 (available at

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.

As he stood in front of this group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” He pulled out a large wide-mouthed jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more would fit inside, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

Everyone in the class agreed, “Yes!”

“Really?” he teased. He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing the gravel to work itself down into the space between the rocks.

Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

“Probably not,” one brave student ventured.

“Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it filled the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.

Once more he asked, “Is the jar full?”

Now the whole class was on to him. No!” they shouted.

Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher and began to pour water in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is: no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in!”

“No!” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all.”

Friends, what are the “big rocks” in your life? Your priorities, the most important things in your life, which only you can decide? You must put these “big rocks” in first or you’ll never get them in at all. If you sweat the little stuff, then you’ll fill your life with worry over little things that don’t really matter; and you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff.

© 2010 Eric Borreson

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